FIVE THOUSAND steel jobs hang in the balance as steel giant Liberty announced plans to sell its plant in Stocksbridge, Sheffield, as part of a ‘major restructuring process’ following the collapse of Greensill Capital.
The Sanjeev Gupta-owned firm, which is the UK’s third largest steel business, has agreed a refinancing plan – which will involve the sale of its aerospace and special alloys steel business based near Sheffield – after weekend talks with creditors.
The company has 12 plants across the UK, including in Rotherham, Stocksbridge and Brinsworth.
Responding to the news, the National Trade Union Steel Coordinating Committee, which includes the unions Community, GMB and Unite, said: ‘Stocksbridge and its downstream plants are strategically important businesses vital to our country’s defence, energy and aerospace sectors.
‘The future for these businesses must be secured and the trade unions will hold Sanjeev Gupta to his promise that none of our steel plants will close on his watch.
‘Liberty must act as a responsible seller and run a transparent sales process which fully engages the trade unions.
‘We will expect to meet any potential buyer to scrutinise their plans and test their commitment to the workforce and to our industry.
‘Whilst we are encouraged that Liberty and Credit Suisse appear to be making progress on the refinancing, we need to see a solution to inject cash into the UK as a matter of urgency.’
Tory business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told MPs on the business select committee yesterday that the UK is ‘exploring all options for Liberty Steel but nationalisation is the least likely option.
‘The assets fundamentally are good assets,’ he said. ‘Nationalisation is an extreme occurrence which is unlikely to happen, quite frankly. My view has been vindicated by the fact the assets are for sale.’
Dave Wiltshire, Secretary of the All Trades Unions Alliance, commented: ‘Nationalisation is the only way to save the steel jobs. The trade unions must demand it now!
‘It is only strike action and the occupation of the plant that can stop this sell off. The trade unions must get off their knees, stop pleading with the Tory Business Secretary and call strike action now.
‘If it takes a general strike and a change of government to stop the closure, then so be it.
‘The general strike must called now!’